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Baja California Sur

Region 2: Baja California Sur


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With the completion of Highway 1 (Carretera 1) in 1973, the stunning desert landscapes and nearly 1,400 miles of coastline of Baja Sur became a cult destination for adventurers. The region, served by three international airports, has seen significant development over the last decade and is increasingly popular with tourists and expatriate retirees. Tourism is the state’s largest industry, with boating, fishing, and golf being the elite attractions. The principal destinations are La Paz and Los Cabos (the Capes)—the pricey coastal resort that incorporates both San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.

Major festivals here include Cabo San Lucas’ fishing tournaments in October and November, the Cabo jazz festival at the end of July, and the pre-Lenten carnival, or Mardi Gras (usually mid- to late February) in La Paz, on the gulf coast.

Whale-watching hot spots from December through March include Guerrero Negro, in particular Scammon’s Lagoon (460 miles north of La Paz), and also San Ignacio, for whales and cave painting. Other attractions in this region are the mining town of Santa Rosalia, prehistoric rock paintings and bay kayaking in Mulegé, and the historic town of Loreto (220 miles north of La Paz), with its marina, sports fishing, golf, mission churches, and Museo de las Misiones. Todos Santos, just 45 miles north of Los Cabos, is the region’s up-and-coming destination as a charming artists’ enclave that has caught the eye of entrepreneurs and real estate speculators.

La Paz is the state capital of Baja California Sur and the region’s most traditional city. It now has a population of over 250,000, many of whom are retired North Americans. Attractions include scuba diving, fishing, and nature tours, as well as kayaking in the calm waters of the Sea of Cortés.

The Cabos “Corridor” (120 miles south of La Paz) is a 20-mile stretch of highway connecting the towns of San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas at the southernmost tip of the peninsula. It offers wild cliffs and beaches specked with luxury hotels and championship golf courses, as well as trendy restaurants, shopping, and glamorous nightlife.

Baja California Sur – Safety

Drivers in this region should keep to the speed limit indicated, and note that the stretch between La Paz and Cabo on Hwy 1 and 19 is heavily policed. Despite efforts to clean up police corruption, some road cops may be on the lookout for bribes and visitors are advised to be well versed in the law and their rights, or keep a small amount of cash handy in their wallets (storing larger amounts elsewhere).

The driving advice for the Northern Baja California Region holds true for the long distances and desert heart of this region—make sure your fuel gauge is working, fill up the gas tank and bring a spare supply. In addition, drivers should watch for topes, or speed bumps, which are often uncommonly high and can damage your vehicle if you do not slow down considerably. Cattle and other animals wandering onto the roads can cause accidents. If renting a car, see whether your insurance covers travel on dirt roads (See Driving in Mexico).

The most common hazards for the many fishing and boating enthusiasts here are sunburn and sunstroke, so visitors should be prepared. Bring strong sunblock, broad-brimmed hats, long-sleeved cotton shirts to protect arms and shoulders, shades, and plenty of water or sports drinks to keep hydrated.

Jellyfish (agua mala) are fairly common here so check along the shore before wading into the water. If you get stung, do not panic. Just leave the water as quickly as possible and seek help (usually a soothing cream) from the beach or hotel’s first aid facility, if there is one. Stings are harmless and the discomfort passes away fairly quickly (see stings, bites, and poisoning from Dangerous Marine Animals).

Stingrays, non-aggressive creatures, are more common on the Sea of Cortés side. When entering the water, shuffling your feet under the sand, where they hide, will scare them off. Sharks off the Baja Coast rarely enter the shallow waters near the coastline.

For the same reason that the region is a surfing mecca, many beaches on the Pacific side of Baja Sur are not at all safe for swimming, especially not for children or the elderly. Sharp declines on shore lines, rough surf, strong currents, and undertows and dangerous rip tides make it unwise to swim anywhere other than a pool. Even on beaches considered to be safe—and where you may see other swimmers—check the warning flag system and ask for local advice on conditions before braving the waves. The Sea of Cortés is generally quite safe for swimmers.

The hurricane or storm season usually begins in the Pacific in mid-May, with September traditionally the stormiest month in the Baja region. Hurricane Marty (Category 3, with winds of about 100-120 m.p.h.) caused considerable waterfront damage along the Sea of Cortés in 2003 but the region has not suffered a truly strong hurricane. If traveling between May and November, visitors may want to check the U.S. National Hurricane Center site in advance of their trip.

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